An Introduction to Grasses.

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Exactly a week after my Grassland Monitoring course and I was on another course, organised again by Morecambe Bay Partnerships, this time on grasses, and based here in Silverdale.

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Initially, there was a presentation in the Green Room of the Gaskell Hall, introducing a handful of species commonly found in the major habitats in this area. Then we progressed to The Lots to test our new found knowledge.

And finally, went down to The Shore to look at the grasses on the salt marsh.

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Botanising.

I’ve had a couple of Field Guides to non-flowering plants – grasses, sedges, rushes, and ferns – for quite some time, but never seem to have got to grips with them. I still think that I’m going to find them challenging, but maybe now that I’m familiar with a few, I can start to slowly chip away at the others, like I have done with flowers.

Having said that, I didn’t make a good start – I took no pictures of grasses to add to this post, but when we got down to the shore and there were some flowering plants to see, out came my camera!

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Sea Milkwort.

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Sea Plantain.

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Thrift.

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These leaves, I was told, belong to an Orache. There are several, I’m not sure which this is. Not very exciting to look at I know, but it pleased me, because I knew I recognised the name and that I would find it, and I subsequently have, in the pages of the first field guide to plants which I bought – Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’. Apparently, young leaves can be picked and used like spinach. Perhaps I should try it.

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When we’d finished, I walked home by a circuitous route across the sands to The Cove. Many people were out making the most of the firm surface created by the long spell of dry weather we were enjoying. We were all surprised by two microlights flying surprisingly low above the beach, you can see one in the photo above.

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An Introduction to Grasses.

A New England

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Another sunset from the Cove. (It must be ages since I last posted one?)

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Another evening stroller commented as I passed: “Look at the Power Station – it looks like it’s on fire!”

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Heysham Nuclear Power Station.

Sometimes even the ugliest of things can catch the light just right.

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them, but they were only satellites

from A New England by Billy Bragg

Something else I don’t usually see in the village…

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…Morris Dancers.

A New England

The Lots: Orchids and Starling Nest

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A post about the orchids on the Lots is an annual occurrence on this blog. It’s a celebration of sorts: spring is in full swing and there are lots of orchids on The Lots. More every year it seems to me.

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I’d already been to check on the orchids a couple of times before this visit. The Early Purple Orchids had been flowering, but the Green-winged Orchids weren’t then in evidence. But now both were flowering abundantly.

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In the early days of the blog, I had no clue how to distinguish between the two species, which now seems comically inept. In fact, looking at old posts I often, admittedly tentatively, misidentified both kinds.

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These are Early Purples, less purple now than when the flowers first emerged. Even the stems are purple at the tops. They can vary a little in colour…

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The Green-winged are a different shape, have spots on the flowers rather than the leaves and have distinctive green stripes along both sides of the ‘hood’…

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Based on the evidence of the Lots this year, they are also much more variable in colour…

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Though generally purple, there were also white and pink blooms.

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Sadly:

“Only a few years ago the Green-winged Orchid was widespread, especially in the south of England, and not uncommon, but the drainage and cultivation of the old damp pastures it favours had led to a drastic reduction in numbers. Although still locally abundant where it does occur, it must now be considered a threatened species.”

Wild Orchids of Britain and Ireland by David Lang

By contrast, here’s an attractive weed which seems to thrive wherever we thrive…

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Ten years ago, on the way to mistaking Early-purple for Green-winged Orchids, a commotion in the trees above the Cove alerted me to the presence of a Starling nest in an abandoned Woodpecker nest-hole. I’ve kept an eye on that hole ever since, but never noticed any birds using it again. But on this walk, I heard some raucous squawking from the trees and looked up to discover that it was an adult Starling returning with food to that same hollow.

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I was every bit as delighted this time round as I was then.

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This titbit is clearly some sort of worm.

But I couldn’t fathom out what the three neatly held morsels are here…

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I do know that when the starling left the nest again, it was still carrying one of them, now unravelled into a ribbon of white.

I think that this bird knows that it’s being observed!

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Both adults seemed to be making deliveries. Oddly, they made a lot noise as they approached the nest – you would think that they wouldn’t want to draw attention to the location – but became more and more circumspect each time, so after watching four ‘food drops’ I left them to it.

Starlings were once such commonplace birds that I think it was easy to overlook how stunning they are.

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Welsh Poppies in our driveway.

The Lots: Orchids and Starling Nest

Little and Often: Progress Report

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Somehow the end of February slid by without any mention here of my progress, or otherwise, towards the target I’ve set myself of walking 1000 miles this year, above and beyond the pottering about I do at home and at work. This wasn’t because I’d fallen behind; I didn’t quite match January’s total, it’s true, but with a little over 120 miles logged, I had much more than I need to reach my, admittedly arbitrary, target.

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These photographs are from one of my ‘little and often’ strolls. The day after our friends left us was once again wet, but it briefly brightened up in the afternoon, so I took my chance for a standard wander to the Cove and across the Lots.

These are the benches where I sometimes sit to watch the sun set, currently graced by an entourage of Daffodils.

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I’ve been enjoying a website, Other-Wordly, “about strange and lovely words” and one of the words which I hope will stick with me is smultronställe, a Swedish term,

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Maybe these benches are not wild enough, or private enough, to match that description, but otherwise they’re a perfect fit.

The rain may have paused for a while, but the evidence of it’s recent ubiquity was everywhere to see…

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Even on the Lots, which usually stay reasonably dry…

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By the time I came back through the village, the skies were leaden again, presaging the imminent arrival of more wet.

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Here’s my calendar for February, from Mapmywalk…

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By contrast, March looks a little spartan…

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..and it’s true that illness and general busyness did hamper my efforts somewhat. In fact, at one point, I did find myself bitterly contemplating the possibility of a blogpost entitled something along the lines of ‘Too Little, Less Often’, but despite my misgivings, I still just about crept over the required mileage for a month, so that’s okay then. In fact, as of today, I’ve just passed 400 miles for the year so far.

In a similar vein: last night I was updating my ‘Birkett Tick List‘ page, essentially a list of the hills in the Lake District which I’ve climbed since I started to write this blog, back in 2008. I was engrossed in the technicalities of editing the page – something I’ve had trouble with, which is why it was almost two years behind, but it was quite enlightening to look back at two years of walks and realise that in that time I’d actually climbed far more hills than I expected. At one point, A was looking over my shoulder and pointed out to me that the list has become quite a long one. And she’s right: without ever really applying myself, I do seem to have accumulated a fair few ascents. Now, admittedly, the Lakes are compact and it’s often possible to tick-off several hills in a single walk. And also, it’s taken me 10 years to build-up a substantial tally, but I still feel like this is another victory for the steady , softly-softly, tortoise (rather than hare) approach.

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Blea Tarn Hill – somewhere I might never have visited without Birkett’s list to encourage me. Not a lot of effort being expended here, but we actually managed to claim a fair number of summits that day.

Little and Often: Progress Report

Such A Night

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The much reported snow and ice barely made it to this part of the West Coast, although when it did arrive it was oddly localised and, for example, Silverdale got quite a bit more snow than nearby Lancaster. These photos are from a quick walk on the Wednesday. We’d had one very heavy flurry of snow on the Tuesday evening and some more lighter falls thereafter and by Wednesday morning we had quite an accumulation. Not sufficient to keep us at home, sadly. The sun shone for much of the day and although it was cold, much of the snow had thawed by the time I got out for a late circuit around The Cove and The Lots.

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Redshanks.

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Inevitable Cove sunset.

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Ashmeadow House.

Later, I took A to Arnside for a piano lesson and had time for a short, and very chilly, stroll along the promenade and beside the River Kent.

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I should probably explain the convoluted way in which I arrived at the post’s inappropriate title: for the previous post which eventually ended up accompanied by ‘True Love Travels on a Gravel Road’, I also considered ‘Walk On Guilded Splinters’ and although I eventually rejected that choice, I then found myself listening to a few other Dr John songs, including, eventually, ‘Such A Night’….

Such A Night

Henry’s Pebble Art

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The day after our Garburn Pass outing. I had to wait in for a plumber (who embarrassingly, when he eventually turned up, spent about two minutes tightening a nut, or tightening something anyway, barely long enough to drink his cup of tea). But I digress: as I said, I had to be in for the plumber in the early afternoon. In the morning, it rained, but I steeled myself and went for a wander anyway, just around the local lanes. It wasn’t particularly pleasant; one of our friends even took pity on me and stopped his car to offer me a lift, but I enjoyed being out, cocooned in my waterproofs. Eventually, it even slacked off, and then dried up altogether.

Close to the Wolfhouse Gallery, I spotted a Tree-creeper, the first I’ve seen for a while. I even tried to take a photo, but with just the camera phone and the gloomy conditions and a very shy bird, that was always doomed to failure.

These Cyclamen…

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…flowering on the verge on Lindeth Road were a little more obliging.

By the time our boiler’s leak was fixed, the weather had changed dramatically. I still had time for a turn around Eaves Wood…

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow. Note the snow on the Bowland Fells.

Before heading down to the Cove, for once, timing it right to arrive shortly before the sunset.

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Recently, there always seem to have been much the same birds evident on the muddy beaches by the Cove. A group of Shelduck, as many as forty sometimes, but just a couple on this occasion. A large flock of Oystercatchers, sitting in a tight group, in the same spot each time, out along the stream which flows away from the Cove. And some small waders closer in shore, I assume Redshanks.

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This pebble art was on one of the benches on the cliff path above the Cove.

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I haven’t posted it to FB, because I’ve always hoped that my posts there are private and only accessible to my friends. So I’ve posted it here instead, where perhaps it won’t get the exposure which the obviously talented Henry deserves, but maybe, somehow or other, the images will find their way back to Henry. Feel free to pass them on in any way which you feel is appropriate.

 

Henry’s Pebble Art

Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.

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“The forecast for tomorrow shows every kind of weather, what a cop out.”

This was A, on Saturday evening; she knows how much this symbol winds me up on a long range forecast, suggesting, as it does, some straddling of the fence from the meteorologists. Of course, it could also imply that the weather is destined to be very mixed. That’s exactly how Sunday turned out.

No ‘Listed Lancaster’ posts from last week, not because I didn’t get out for any lunchtime strolls – although I was restricted a little, it was a busy week – but because when I did get out the weather was always gloomy and not really ideal for photographs. I particularly enjoyed my walk on Wednesday, when we had snow, but even the photos I took then are  rather grim and monotone.

Saturday too was very wet, but it did finally brighten a little late on, and I abandoned the second half of Ireland’s cakewalk against Italy to make the most of it. Not much to show for it in terms of photos of views or leaves or sunsets etc, but every walk seems to throw up something, in this case a wet poster…

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Long-suffering readers will know that I have become quite interested in Thomas Mawson and his gardens, which have featured on this blog a number of times. I’m hoping that I will be free on the evening of this lecture. If not, there were plenty of other things to choose from: a talk on ‘Bees in Your Garden’, another on ‘Sweet Peas’ and a third on ‘An Underwater Safari in Morecambe Bay’, music at the regular ‘Bits and Pieces’ event at the Silverdale Hotel, the John Verity Band appearing soon at the same venue, and, at The Instititute, Lancaster Band The Meter Men, who play Hammond Organ infused funk and are, in my opinion, superb. And that’s just a small selection of the entertainment on offer, seen through the filter of my own interests. Silverdale it seems, like Stacy’s Mom, ‘has got it going on’.

Anyway, back to Sunday: I set off, as I often do, without a clear idea of where I was going. Initially though, I chose to climb to the Pepper Pot on Castlebarrow, to take a look at the clouds racing past. I went via the Coronation path because I knew that would take me past the Snowdrops which featured at the top of the post.

From time to time, new paths seem to appear in Eaves Wood, a reflection, I suppose, of how many people regularly walk there. Whenever I walk past one, I wonder where it goes and resolve that, next time I’m out, I’ll find out. On Saturday I finally acted on that impulse. The first path I followed cut a corner between two paths which I know well. Even so, I felt very pleased to have taken it and I’ve been back and walked it again since.

From Castlebarrow I followed the path along the northern edge of Eaves Wood, beside the wall which marks the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria. I met a couple walking their dog, who emerged from the trees at the side of the path. Looking back from where they’d come I thought I could detect the thinnest of thin trods, a hint of a path. Naturally, I followed it and it brought me to a drystone wall, in a spot where an old ants’ nest against the wall made it easy to scramble over. It was evident that people had climbed the wall here. I could see that just beyond the wall was the rim of Middlebarrow Quarry…

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Silverdale Moss, Scout Hill and Farleton Fell from Middlebarrow.

The quarry is huge, but is well concealed from most directions. Again, I thought I could see a path heading along the edge of the quarry. In all the years I’ve been here I’ve never walked around it. It is private land, but it’s not a working quarry anymore and I can’t see what harm could be done by wandering around. So I did.

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Middlebarrow pano. Click on it to see enlarged version.

The path turned out to be a bit sketchy in places. And it was easy to lose where there was limestone pavement…

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Some of the pavements were coated in moss, others had grass growing over them, which made it hard to see the grykes.

True to form, the weather threw everything at me: rain, sleet, hail, but odd moments of sunshine too.

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There’s a ninety metre contour somewhere around the rim of the quarry, making it the highest point on the limestone hill on which Eaves Wood sits. It’s certainly a good view point for Silverdale Moss and I shall be back here again.

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Whitbarrow catching the sun.

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I took this photo in an attempt to show the heavy snow which was falling. You’ll have to take my word for it.

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And this one to show the state of many of the paths after the wet weather we’ve endured.

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By the time I was leaving the woods, the snow had stopped again.

I timed my walk to arrive back to watch England squeak past Wales in the rugby by the finest of margins.

Then I was out again. Since it was still cloudy, and I knew I was too late for the sunset, I only took my ‘new’ phone with me and not my camera.

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I never learn!

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The colours were subtle, pastel shades, but very pleasant none-the-less.

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Always good to finish a day (and a post) with a colourful sunset, if you can.

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Middlebarrow in Every Kind of Weather.